Soldiers Without Guns – a review

Late in 1997, the New Zealand Defence Force led a peacekeeping mission to war-ravaged Bougainville. This wasn’t it’s first ride in the rodeo, following a couple of years after its three-rotation deployment of an armoured company to Bosnia in 1994/5 and building on its history of peace support operations in Rhodesia, the Sinai, Iraq, Cambodia, Angola, Moxambique and the former Yugoslavia to name a few…

This new operation had a unique point of difference: it would be unarmed, its weapons instead would be smiles and guitars…

To be blunt about it, the New Zealand Defence Force is pretty crap about telling its stories. That’s sad because it has so many great stories to tell. Thus is falls upon independent producers to seek out and tell these stories. Soldiers Without Guns is producer Will Watson’s take on the Operation BEL ISI story, building on an earlier documentary Hakas and Guitars.

Will Watson has assembled quite an ensemble to support this story. Lucy Lawless narrates and the soundtrack draws on such Kiwi talent as Fat Freddy’s Drop, The Black Seeds, Anika Moa, Tiki Taane and Kora. The military leads are Major (rtd) Fiona Cassidy who was, from memory the PRO for the initial deployment, and WO1 (rtd) Des Ratima, who was, from the same memory, Brigadier Mortlock’s key cultural advisor. There are interviews with key leaders like Roger Mortlock, Jerry Mateparae and Don McKinnon, who was the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade at the time of the deployment.

Soldiers Without Guns is, though, very much the Fi and Des show. That’s not a bad thing and more power to them for seizing this opportunity to tell their part of this unique mission. It does however skip over the scope and scale of the operation and doesn’t really impart the sense of nervousness that surrounded it until the initial lodgement was complete.

The coverage of the repairs to the airfield runway that were only completed just before the first C-130 landed is mildly dramatic in its own right but doesn’t really acknowledge the engineers that completed these repairs in an environment of some uncertainty. The operational coverage skimps over those soldiers who were deployed, unarmed, to remote team sites to engage the local population and defuse tensions. Nor does it do anything more than hint at the logistics (my minor part was procuring the bright yellow hats two weeks out form D Day) and sustainment challenges that had to be overcome for the mission to succeed. This especially applies to the roles of HMZNS Endeavour and 3 and 40 Squadrons RNZAF without which the whole hting probably would have fallen over.

An Iroquois from 3 Sqn RNZAF in its distinctive orange mission colour scheme

Operation BEL ISI’s success was undoubtedly due to its unique and innovative approach to peacekeeping, which was based itself on Roger Mortlock’s insights and analysis of the core issues underlying the conflict – it wasn’t just about copper – and his grasp of the matriarchal societal environment into which he would be deploying. It the mid-90s, the dual themes of female leads and unarmed forces were radical and unheard of – this was a time when The RNZN still thought that Larissa Turner just needed to get over herself, and the shooters were riding the wave of the post-DESERT STORM ‘revolution in military affairs’ – and there were many internal sceptics (but try to find one now).

I don’t remember much media comment at all at the time and certainly nothing along the lines of “… this radical idea of sending soldiers without guns was condemned by the  media because they felt the soldiers would be massacred given the first 14 peace attempts had failed …” If anything, I’m not sure that the media really cared that much about an area of the the South-West Pacific that no one knew or cared much about. Similarly, I think it is misleading to say that “… the first 14 peace attempts had failed …” BEL ISI was built on the foundation of peace initiatives stretching back to the late 80s. Like many things in irregular warfare, there are few quick fixes.

The soundtrack was one of the selling points for me (pre-purchase) and I was looking forward to some pumping Kiwi sounds. The much-touted soundtrack is very subdued to the point of ineffectiveness and it would have been nice to have just the tracks as an option.

It has screened and been well received overseas.

Soldiers Without Guns is definitely worth watching. It is currently still screening around the country and it’s only a couple of hundy to arrange a screening or $19-20 to buy the DVD. It tells the story of the group of Kiwis who went off into the jungle and did something that had never been done before. It would be a mistake to think this approach can be cookie cuttered into any environment but it worked in Bougainville – that’s what Soldiers Without Guns is about…

A Kiwi story told by Kiwis largely for Kiwis…but others will get it too…

Go! Go! Go! – a review

Just over a year ago, I reviewed the movie Six Days. I was excited to find Go! Go! Go! – The Definitive Inside Story of the Iranian Embassy Siege at our annual St John Ambulance book sale in Taumarunui. This was about six months ago when I was still living in at the old Roy Turners in National Park Village.

I didn’t start it until we had moved into our latest forever home in Owhango. To be honest, having seen how Rusty Firmin’s input was translated into the quite excellent Six Days, I was savouring Go! Go! Go! for a time when I could sit back and really enjoy it…you know THE definitive inside story…

I need to learn to brace myself for disappointment.

Go! Go! Go! really disappointed me. It reads more like the type of account published before the smoke clears to make the most of a current news story. The only names on the cover are Rusty Firmin who led one of the assault teams on the day and Will Pearson who is cited on the back cover as the author of Tornado Down. I enjoyed Tornado Down but on checking, the authors are listed, as per my recollection, as Flight Lieutenants John Nicol and John Peters (the crew of the ill-fated Tornado ZD791): no mention of any Will Pearson.

Similarly, the name Gillian Stern does not appear on either cover but is listed with Rusty Firmin and Will Pearson under the acknowledgements. A quick Google finds an English ghost writer named Gillian Stern with this extract from the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2019:

So no problem per se with ghost writers. I think they are a great way for someone to tell their story when perhaps they lack the skills to impart a great story to a general audience. I just have a feeling that, in this case, the ghost writers outnumber the subject matter expert. I was eagerly awaiting the inside story from an SAS team leaders perspective but instead it felt like a Sunday News serial story.

Go! Go! Go! does cover the siege and its background but it always feels quite false and superficial. It feels like it has been written by people who don’t really have a good handle on the subject matter and just just regurgitating what they have been told, without any real value add. I could go on but I’d rather just say that anyone interested in this story should watch Six Days and read the relevant section from a recent version of Tony Geraghty’s excellent Who Dares Wins: The Story of the SAS.

Victor Two – a review

Recently I had to drive over to Stratford for a four day course. I knew there would be nights off and dropped into Books and Toys in Whanganui to see if I could find some new reading material (most of my library is still all packed up after our moves this year). Victor 2 Looked like a good read, a different take on DESERT STORM from Bravo Two Zero and The One That Got Away

You really have to wonder how the British SAS achieved anything in Iraq during DESERT STORM. We’ve had at least four books on the disastrous Bravo Two Zero mission – the better of the four being the ones by Mike Coburn and Michael Asher, the ones by Chris Ryan and Andy McNab seem better consigned to works of fiction.

Victor Two is the story of a more successful SAS patrol deep into Iraq. The story follows a cycle of got lost in the desert, more internal scrapping, shot up some Iraqis. I found it really underwhelming and more of an opportunity for the author to do some regimental score-settling than any credible recounting of DESERT STORM special operations.

Not really recommended as anything but light reading on a slow day, a slow wet day…

Dear ANZ, are you listening…?

 

ANZ New Zealand is being offered every opportunity to do the right thing…my lawyer has been busy over the last couple of days…sent to ANZ this morning via Bell BGully…

ANZ is now so shy of adverse media it will seek a less profitable outcome to try to keep its dirty laundry under cover…

From this…

Mr O’Neill’s home, situated at 3803 State Highway 4, Raurimu (“the property”) was scheduled to be auctioned by ANZ New Zealand (“ANZ”) at 11.00am on 8 November. My client instructs that there was considerable legitimate interest in this auction.

However, our client instructs that the ANZ cancelled the auction at the last minute when prospective buyers were already assembling at the auction location. The ANZ has given no reason to my client for this last minute action; and I understand that this may have been a reactive response to questions asked by the media with regards to the sale.

The ANZ has not communicated with Mr O’Neill at all. On 15 November 2018, an agent from Harcourts advised him that because he “had a right to know’ the ANZ had instructed that the property was to be sold by tender. Tenders are due by 4.00pm on 30 November 2018.

My client instructs that two days later, noting the short duration of the tender, he was concerned that an online listing had not been posted immediately and raised this concern with Harcourts head office. A listing appeared early the following week; however, signage on the property was not erected until later that week. There has been no contact with Mr O’Neill to arrange viewing opportunities and/or further open homes for interested purchasers. Mr O’Neill instructs that he has cooperated fully with previous open homes.

…to this…really…?

Mr O‘Neill believes, and certainly there appears to be no evidence to refute this belief, that the ANZ did not intend for him to learn of the tender until it had closed.

The notice period for this change in tactic is of concern, as my client does not consider that this approach will result in an appropriate response being obtained from the market. Also, as mortgagor he may suffer considerable loss because of the approach taken by the ANZ, particularly, at this time of year; and after having cancelled the auction process
that promised the best result for all parties concerned.

It is of concern that there appears to be an ongoing failure by the ANZ to communicate with Mr O’Neill either directly or through me. My client is of the view that the switch from an auction to a tender process by the ANZ is potentially a less effective form of marketing. It would also appear that as the ANZ stands to recover less of the debt via tender process, it could be viewed that this action is solely intended to protect the ANZ from unwanted media interest. If that is the case, then the approach could be considered reprehensible and inconsistent with the obligation the ANZ has under the Code of Banking Practice to “act fairy, reasonably, and in good faith, in a consistent and ethical way’.

My client views the situation for ANZ as being entirely of its own making, which includes its reckless lending; and in its conduct since he first raised his concerns five years ago. If the growing media and political interest is uncomfortable for ANZ, then this is unfortunate; however, Mr O’Neill should not be disadvantaged as a result. I would also draw your attention to the effects upon Mr O’Neill’s physical and psychological well-being, which is resultant from the conduct of the ANZ towards him.

Without conceding our client’s position in this matter, our client considers that an appropriate response is an 8 week campaign for a tender after the Christmas period. Alternatively, our client’s offer to facilitate a resolution remains open.

I await your immediate response.

Brighter days…

An open letter to New Zealand Members of Parliament: Banking conduct in New Zealand

“We’re going to live in the truck?” Cool..!”

Hello

On 5 November the Financial Markets Authority and the Reserve Bank released their joint report into bank conduct and culture in New Zealand On 15 November they released another report into bank incentive structures. Both reports are highly critical of banks’ conduct in New Zealand, find most if not all wanting in terms of their culture and conduct, measures in place to mitigate poor conduct, and the responsibilities of senior bank officers and of boards.

While everyone seems to accept the findings of the reports, no one yet seems to want to ask the questions around making it right. ANZ New Zealand posted a profit of $1.99 billion in the last twelve months, that’s around $5.4 million dollars a day – profit! Should ANZ be required to allocate a proportion of its profits to making it right for the New Zealander who, to be blunt about it,have been screwed by the greed of ANZ and other banks? ANZ was quite happy to incentivise and pressure its staff into making sales that should never have proceeded and now it needs to make this right.

In 2004, I guaranteed my partner’s company for a house for our daughter when we moved away. That property was sold in 2005 and I thought nothing more of it. At the same time my partner was recovering from a serious head injury. When she was working her income was less than $50k a year and income from her company was limited, less than $10k a year. Still ANZ, from 2005-2009, extended credit to her that, by the time I found out about it at the end of 2013, had accrued to $408k. I don’t not believe that she is responsible for her actions in this period. If I did, then I would be taking the appropriate actions.

When I challenged ANZ over this, it said that it had no authority to discuss this with me. That was not true: the loan documents include a specific clause enabling disclosure to guarantors and the Privacy Commissioner also ruled in 2012 that this sort of information can be considered personal information for the guarantor. ANZ said that the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act (CCCFA) prevented it disclosing this information.Again, this is untrue: this Act only applies to personal lending and does not mention company lending at all. To support its position that guarantees are treated differently that security, ANZ then made up information that it attributed to the Code of Banking Practice. Even if that Code did say that, ANZ’s guarantee and loan documents clearly define security as including guarantees.

Under the Code of Banking Practice, ANZ has an obligation to only extend credit if it is satisfied that the person borrowing the money can reasonably pay it back. Under the same Code it also has an obligation to tell people who have offered guarantees and other security of new or additional lending against that guarantee or other forms of security.  The Code also includes a general obligation for banks to act fairly, reasonably, ethically and consistently. While we might agree that they are consistent in their conduct towards customers, the recent reports from the FMA and Reserve Bank find that ANZ et al fall short in acting fairly, ethically and reasonably. Who will hold them to account for their actions?

The reports find the regulatory frameworks in New Zealand for banking are weak. In part this may be due to gaps in legislation and culture of ‘not our problem’ – have a look and see how many  government agencies with a regulatory output have more content on their websites about what they don’t do versus what they actually do. From my experience with these agencies, this is largely due to inadequate leadership and an unwillingness to get into the fight. Nowhere is this more apparent that within the Office of the Banking Ombudsman. Although not part of Government – something I hope you will consider changing – this office should be the primary watchdog to safeguard ordinary New Zealanders against predatory banks like ANZ.

In November 2016, I submitted a detail complaint (attached)with support documentation to Office of the Banking Ombudsman which initially rejected it out of hand. After three months, it produced a single page response(attached) that did not address any of the issues raised. Acting on advice from the Office of the (real) Ombudsman this year, I submitted a complaint to the chair of the Board of the Banking Ombudsman. Although she did appoint a QC to review my case, he was specifically limited to only review the process applied by the Banking Ombudsman and not the actual issues raised.

ANZ was scheduled to forcibly auction my home on 8 November.I cooperated fully with the real estate agent as, if the sale proceeded, it was in my best interests as much as ANZ’s for the auction to achieve the best possible result. That auction was cancelled an hour before it was due to proceed. I believe that ANZ did this to prevent 1 News screening a story on the auction that night. ANZ did not communicate with me at any time to advice of the cancellation, the reasons for the cancellation or what would be happening next. A week later, the real estate agent called me in tears after she had found out my home was instead to be sold by auction. I don’t believe that I was meant to know about this til it was a done deal. That tender closes 4PM Friday 30 November.

There is probably not much that can be done to deter ANZ from its course this time. Like most bullies, the only things that put it off are a good hard punch to the nose, or being publicly embarrassed. To that end, if you would like to help, please do not go off and punch a banker. Instead, you might wish to ask the Banking Ombudsman or ANZ if they would like to offer some comment on the issues raised in the attached complaint (sorry, it is a bit chunky as there are a lot of issues) or ANZ’s conduct since I first challenged it in 2013 (yes,five years ago) and over its conduct of the tender.

Contacts for the Banking Ombudsman are Nicola Sladden nicola.sladden@bankomb.org.nzor for the chair of the Board, Miriam Dean miriam.dean@barrists.co.nz. Unfortunately I do not have any direct contacts with ANZ other than to direct you towards its totally inappropriately named Customer Financial Well-being Unit.

Longer term, please consider how best predatory corporates like ANZ New Zealand can be held accountable and required to make good, as best they can, the damage their greed has done to so many ordinary New Zealanders.

My suggestions are that we

  • bring the Office of the Banking Ombudsman in as an arm of Government; 
  • ensure that other regulatory agencies like the FMA and Commerce Commission are both empowered and energised to pursue errant corporates; and, most of all,
  • establish a Royal Commission to peel off the scab of banking in New Zealand. I do not believe for one second that the Tasman Sea is a barrier adequate to protect us from the behaviours now being exposed by the Australian Banking Royal Commission.  

Thank you

Simon O’Neill

(yes, the rescue helicopter guy)

In Raurimu (for now)

When the sun shines again…

The One Where Banking Ombudsman Changes Her Tune

Following on from Cover Me

Covering Fire

Throughout ANZ New Zealand has relied on the Banking Ombudsman as the linch-pin of its defence. It really needs a better linch-pin. The Banking Ombudsman (Nicola Sladden nicola.sladden@bankomb.org.nz) and the Chair of the Banking Ombudsman board (Miriam Dean miriam.dean@barrists.co.nz) have consistently avoided the issues at the core of this dispute.

Nicola Sladden nicola.sladden@bankomb.org.nz

All off the record, of course, like anything is ever really off the record, but I understand that some of Nicola’s responses to media inquiries have not been consistent with her formal findings in this case. Once the weak link goes…

Miriam Dean miriam.dean@barrists.co.nz

These are the questions that Miriam and Nicola do not want to answer and that should be put to them:

Question 1

ANZ New Zealand’s guarantee and loan documents include guarantees as forms of security. The Code of Banking Practice (until the May 2018 version) says that banks have to provide any party providing security of the details of any lending against that security. This includes 

  • the annual interest rate and whether it may be changed during the period of the credit facility;
  • all fees and charges (including government charges and taxes);
  • the period for which the credit facility is available;
  • the repayment terms, including any terms relating to early repayment costs.

If banks take the Code of Banking Practice seriously – and it’s the Banking Ombudsman’s job to make sure that they do – why didn’t ANZ tell me about all the extra lending to my ex-wife’s company?

Question 2

Why was the Banking Ombudsman not concerned when:

  • ANZ New Zealand said that it had no authority to disclose information to me – when it did have that authority and a previous determination by the Privacy Commissioner also said that it should disclose this information.
  • ANZ New Zealand said that the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003 prevented disclosure to me. The truth is that this Act, by definition, only covers personal lending and does not even mention company lending.
  • ANZ New Zealand made up information that it attributed to the Code of Banking Practice to support its position that it did not have to disclose details of additional lending to guarantors.

Question 3

The Code says that ANZ New Zealand can only provide credit or increase credit limits when the information available to it leads it to believe the customer will be able to meet the terms of the credit facility (that means, repay the loan). The Banking Ombudsman has held banks accountable under this obligation in its case notes.

Why didn’t the Banking Ombudsman consider this obligation when ANZ loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars to a small company with a weekly  income of less than $200 (that’s what ANZ New Zealand CEO Dave earns in about 8 1/2 minutes)?

Question 4

The Code requires banks to act fairly and reasonably, in a consistent and ethical way.

Nicola and Miriam, could you please tell us how ANZ New Zealand’s conduct in this issue could ever be considered fair, reasonable or ethical? Yes, we might give ANZ New Zealand points for consistency but that’s not always a good thing. ISO 9001 just means you can do things badly all the time…

…and just as an aside, I think we can give ANZ New Zealand a great big ‘F for Fantastic‘ on each of those seven principles…

The decision maker

Values…customer focus…accountability…

Antonia is ANZ’s Managing Director for Retail and Business Banking and a member of ANZ’s senior executive team. She responded to me when I raised my concerns with ANZ’s board a week or so ago…

If you watch this or nay of the other videos of her online, she speaks well and is clearly a smart person who will probably be leading many of the changes looming for New Zealand’s banking industry…

It seems that she is the one who makes the decision…

antonia response.JPG

Since Antonia’s response, things have gotten a bit wobbly for ANZ and the other big banks in New Zealand. They are being slammed for posting grossly large annual profits, none larger than ANZ’s; and  yesterday’s release of the joint FMA/RBNZ report into banking conduct in New Zealand has surprised few and angered many.

Hi Antonia

Thanks for such a swift response…

My apologies for taking so long to respond…this ‘went noisy’ once the first auction sign went up on my front fence (I was always clear that this would be the catalyst for me to bring this out into the open). In the last week or so, I have been humbled and embarrassed by the amount or moral and practical support from my family and local and professional communities…it has really stretched me just keeping up with emails, messages and phone calls of moral and practical support.

There’s no uncertainty about what may happen to my home. It is being forcibly auctioned by ANZ. In Taumarunui. On Thursday. At 11AM.

But it’s not too late…

Yesterday we saw the FMA and RBNZ release their findings from their joint inquiry into banking conduct in New Zealand. I doubt that there were many surprises there for either of us. It is quite clear that, while perhaps not on the same scale of the findings of the Australian Banking Commission, bank’s management of conduct risk in New Zealand could have been much better and ANZ is up there among those that ‘don’t get it’. I’ve tried to discuss conduct risk with some of your senior staff as part of trying to resolve our current issues, and they just didn’t get the concept…at all…

Even putting aside (for a moment) the original lending that started all this, ANZ’s conduct in my case since this all started in November 2013 (the 11th, so five years ago today week) has not been flash. It certainly has not been what we should expect from a  major banking institution, although the sad truth is that it has probably been exactly what we have come to expect from the major banks.

ANZ officers have said that the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act prevented them disclosing information on the company to me. As I am sure you – and they – knew, this Act, by definition, only covers personal lending. It does not even mention company lending, let alone discuss any rules for or against disclosure by banks to guarantors of company lending. Surely we should be able to credit bank officers in management positions with adequate knowledge of the legislation that does or does not apply to different lending environments? Once might be a honest mistake but when the same ‘mistake’ happens at different levels in different locations in the same bank…well… “Mr Bond, they have a saying: Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”

Even today, your staff insist that they had no authority to disclose any information on the company to me. I had no access to the company’s documentation for two and a half years, until mid-2106.  When I gain that access I found that the loan documents contained a clause specifically authorising ANZ to release information on the company’s financial position to guarantors. Does ANZ really want us to believe that its staff aren’t aware of the contents of its own loan documents? Really…? Once again, Mr Bond…

Was ANZ also unaware of the Privacy Commissioner’s determination in 2012 that a guarantor’s interests and rights in jointly owned property used as security bring that information within the scope of ‘personal information’. This means that this information should be releasable under the Privacy Act. ANZ staff – your staff – should have known this.

The Code of Banking Conduct is clear that member banks, like ANZ, have an obligation to disclose information about lending to any party providing security for that lending. The guarantee and loan documents are equally clear that, for ANZ, guarantees are types of security. Instead of accepting and honouring this, ANZ invented a definition of the term ‘security provider’ that it attributed to the Code to support its position that the Code’s disclosure obligations for guarantees and security are different. The truth is that the term ‘security provider’ does not appear in the 2002, 2007 or 2012 versions of the Code, not does this term appear anywhere in the text of these documents. What is that about? Did ANZ not think that someone would eventually call it on this quite blatant fabrication? Or would ANZ have us believe that this was just a(nother) mistake, a miscommunication? In a formal letter..? A pop culture beer billboard springs to mind…

At the end of September, I met with ANZ in Wellington at its invitation. The stated purpose of this meeting was for ANZ to discuss the reasons for the mortgagee sale and to address any questions I may have. I was excited to finally have an opportunity to discuss these issues with ANZ. Frustratingly, ANZ was unwilling to discuss any of the reasons for the mortgagee sales beyond repeatedly assuring me that ANZ was comfortable that it had done it could and was comfortable with its position. If that is the case then I would respectfully suggest that there is something seriously wrong with ANZ’s moral compass. I travelled four hours each way, anticipating a frank and open discussion and instead only found staff who were unprepared and unable to discuss the reasons for the forced sale of my home.

And this is what is so frustrating…that ANZ remains unable or unwillingly to justify its position. If ANZ has a serious contrary argument – beyond “we don’t agree” – then I want to hear it. I don’t want ANZ or anyone else to agree with me unless I’m right – and that’s also the question that I have asked friends, professional colleagues, lawyers etc and no one can show me that reverse smoking gun that undermines the position that I have put to ANZ for five years, come next Friday.

If ANZ had been as willing to resolve this in 2013 as it became in 2016; if it had reduced my liability under the guarantee in 2013 as it did in 2016, both our positions would be considerably more favourable. Instead, ANZ embarked on this bizarre course of obstruction (to put it politely) in the apparent belief that it wouldn’t or couldn’t get caught out.  It could have done the right thing then and now I would probably be defending it, as a bank that did the right thing,  over the contents of the FMA/RBNZ report.

fmarbnz release.JPG

The predicament that ANZ finds itself in now in one solely of its own making. I sympathise…to a point. I think it’s entirely likely that this situation was caused by staff from a bank (NBNZ) that no longer exists now, for whom management oversight was not as good as two banking systems merged. Certainly, I’ve found my personal banking services since NBNZ was finally subsumed totally by ANZ have been a lot better – not perfect, still enough there for me to support the FMA /RBNZ findings, but better – than there were previously. But the fact remains that staff, who ultimately belonged to ANZ, behaved recklessly in their lending processes, and avoided the obligations placed on banks in the Code….

code.JPG

The obligation to act fairly and reasonably, in a consistent and ethical way.

The obligation to only provide credit or increase credit limits when the information available leads the bank to believe the debtor will be able to meet the terms of the credit facility.

The obligation to inform any party providing security, of the debtor’s obligations when a credit facility is approved.

I know that banks like ANZ are people…people who go home every night to loved ones and normal lives, people who are professional and proud to work for ANZ. From what I have seen of you in the last week, that probably you. It’s unfortunate that this situation was created over a decade ago by people who possibly don’t even work for a bank now; and that even those responsible for the actions above are only the smallest minority of ANZ’s overall staff. Harry Truman said “The buck stops here” and that’s a philosophy that resounds across the communities that I am honoured to be a member of, the community that has rallied around me at a time of difficulty. Leadership and responsibility flow from the top; regardless of where the fault may have occurred, leaders take it on the chin.

And that’s pretty well where we are now. In the last week we have seen the chair of the ANZ board and the CEO of ANZ Group both speak out for a better banking culture. We have seen ANZ post an annual profit disproportionate to its market share, a profit of almost $5.5 million a day (for context, I average around $100/day, maybe a little more if I pick up some guiding work in summer). We have seen the FMA and RBNZ release a joint report that finds significant weaknesses in the governance and management of conduct risks in the major banks in New Zealand and conclude that the overall standard of banks’ approaches to identifying, managing and dealing with conduct risk needs to improve markedly.

P71014-120529.jpg

Home

These events are not just catalysts for improving the conduct of our banks into the future; they are also a call to repair, as best they can, the damage that has been done in the past and the decisions to start that process can only come from the top, from you and your colleagues on ANZ’s executive team and board. And it’s not hard – it may feel hard but it’s not really: the anticipation is always worse than taking the plunge – you can do the right thing in not much time than it would take you to offer any comment on me or the horse I rode in on…in April 2016, ANZ said that it accepted my position. My position had been clearly stated and ANZ did not feel a need to qualify its acceptance in any way. All you need to do is just honour that statement…it might even look something like this:

Hey, team, I’ve reviewed  this again and were not gaining anything by pushing this. We said we accepted Simon’s position two years ago and we didn’t conduct ourselves that well leading up to that point. All this springs from the time that ANZ was absorbing the National Bank and it’s likely that there were some cultural conflicts in the at process. Let’s just get it sorted and not inflict any more of this on Simon, his family and ourselves. We’ve got enough on our plate now with the FMA/NBNZ report and this is now just a distraction…

Up to you…it is the right thing to do…

The email version didn’t of course have any pix…but who wants to look at a wall of text where avoidable…?

Just to keep the record complete, here’s the original email I sent to Antonia via LinkedIn:

aw original email.JPG

An Open Letter to Sir John Key

Dear Sir John

I am writing to you in your capacity as the Chair of the board of directors of ANZ New Zealand.

39206555_10156462467170429_3589002048382697472_o.jpg

On 8 November, ANZ will be forcibly auctioning my home. It is doing this to recover debt that accrued after ANZ, through its then subsidiary the National Bank of New Zealand, to my ex-partner’s company. Through Antonia Watson [Managing Director Retail and Business Banking for ANZ New Zealand] I understand that my case has been discussed within the board, so you are probably aware of it.

Update 22 November. ANZ cancelled the auction at the last minute, probably because it was uncomfortable about the media questions. Instead, it is trying to sell my home through a forced sale by tender that closes on 30 November. This method is unlikely to realise the same return as an auction, as ANZ tries to avoid the media spotlight.

For the last five years, I have been challenging this lending with ANZ on the grounds that it should have disclosed or even sought my approval for any extension of credit against my guarantee. ANZ’s position is that it had no obligation to disclose this.

There is no direct legislative compulsion for disclosure on ANZ for company lending as there is for personal lending under the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003. That notwithstanding, ANZ’s position is weak at best:

  • The Code of Banking Practice places an obligation on ANZ to act fairly and reasonably towards its customers, in a consistent and ethical way. ANZ’s conduct in extending these loans to my ex-partner without disclosing them to the guarantor was neither fair, reasonable or ethical. ANZ’s conduct since I first raised my concerns with it in the way it has withheld information, misrepresented the law and fabricated information has also been neither fair, reasonable or ethical. ANZ has been consistent however that’s not always a good thing.
  • The Code also places an obligation on ANZ to only provide credit or increase a credit limit when the information available leads it to believe the customer will be able to meet the terms of the credit facility. It is difficult to accept that a company with inconsistent income and a director earning less than $50k p.a. could meet the terms of lending on loans totalling over $400k.
  • Most importantly, the Code places specific obligations on ANZ to inform any party providing security, of the customer’s obligations when a credit facility is approved. ANZ has stated that the Code’s requirements in this area apply to guarantees and security differently. While that may apply for some banks, ANZ’s own documentation, including the original guarantee and loan documents, lists guarantees as forms of security.
  • Various bank officers have said that ANZ does have an obligation to disclose lending to guarantors.
  • In 2016, ANZ accepted my position without qualification or modification. It reduced my liability under the guarantee to the value of the one loan that it not only disclosed to me and but for which it required my approval. ANZ staff have said that this was a result of my persistence arguing my case. This reduction (approx. 75-80% of the debt at the time) is not the action of a bank that is in the right.

If I was an independent guarantor, this reduction might be attractive however as the company remains joint property, I am still liable for 50% of its total debt. I have argued that the total debt should be reduced to this amount and that this reduction should take effect from the time that I first raised my concerns.

I do not hold my ex-partner responsible for this additional lending against her company. During the period of this lending, she was not well and recovering from what we know now was a serious head injury. By concealing these loans from me, ANZ denied me any opportunity to make informed decisions about continuing the guarantee or to prevent of mitigate her lending.

ANZ’s position is further weakened by its conduct since I first raised my concerns

  • I requested that ANZ keep me informed of the company’s financial position. ANZ said that it had no authority to disclose this information. When I finally obtained copies of the loan documentation in 2016, there was a specific clause authorising disclosure of this information to guarantors. ANZ had no grounds to withhold this information from me.
  • Further to that request, in 2012, the Privacy Commissioner determined that information relating to jointly-owned property used as security under a guarantee should be considered personal information for the guarantor and be releasable to the guarantor when requested. It is not credible that ANZ would not be aware of this determination.
  • ANZ has cited the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003 as preventing disclosure of this information to me. That is not true. By definition, this act does not apply to company lending. It is not reasonable that ANZ would not know what legislation applied to various lending circumstances.
  • To support ANZ’s position that the Code of Banking Practice, a senior manager fabricated a definition of ‘security provider’ that he attributed to the Code’s glossary. In truth, this term does not appear in the glossary or the text of the 2002, 2007 or 2012 versions of the Code.
  • ANZ told us that the company’s default on its loans would affect our daughter’s home as well. As a result, her and her partner cancelled their wedding and took on considerable additional debt to renovate it to increase its equity, so they could get an independent mortgage. Once they had committed to this course of action, ANZ changed its mind and apologised saying that staff had look at an incorrect title.

ANZ’s conduct has added extra years to the resolution of this issue. It has also caused immeasurable stress on me and members of my family. In your position and the chair of the board, I am requesting that you encourage the board to:

  • Cancel the impending auction of my home on 8 November.
  • Recalculate any debt from November 2013 when I first raised my concerns with ANZ. The delays from this point are a result of ANZ’s conduct and we should not be penalised for them.
  • Honour ANZ’s acceptance of my position in 2016.

anzceo shayne elliott.JPG

In writing to you at this time, I note the massive profit just posted by ANZ New Zealand, recent comments by yourself and ANZ’s CEO, Shayne Elliott, on the conduct of banks in New Zealand. ANZ has also recently removed incentives for retail sales and I would offer that such incentives may also have been a factor in this reckless lending.

anz sale incentives.JPG

ANZ has suggested I take responsibility for my actions – I am happy to – but in this case I would respectfully suggest that it is past time for ANZ New Zealand to take responsibility for ITS actions and do the right thing…

dotherightthing.JPG

#predatorfreeNZ #ANZdotherightthing #ANZNewZealand

PDF version: Letter to Sir John Key

View from the Top

AW- ANZ.jpg

We all scoff at LinkedIn and question its true usefulness for anything, well, useful…yeah, we do…it’s like social media but just for the boring stuff…apart from keeping in touch with one or two people who don’t do the social media thing, LinkedIn is rather ‘yup’…

It has its uses though and, last week, I was able to use my one free month introductory special offer of LinkedIn Pro, specifically the InMail credits that come with the demo, to engage ANZ New Zealand board of directors….you can’t really reach much further than the very top…

From an academic perspective, I was interested to see if I even got a response, and if I did, how long it would take, noting the loooong time it takes ANZ staff to respond, especially if the subject matter is not to their liking. Recently the CEO of ANZ Australia – a Kiwi – said that  he “…answers every email he gets and responds to all written correspondence from customers usually on the same day…” So there’s a standard of sorts…

In all fairness, the board of ANZ New Zealand responded in less than two days. Disappointed in their response? Actually no and not surprised either…this is an organisation that has lost its way so badly that it can no longer see the moral forest for the trees. If the board had suddenly turned against ANZ’s position for the last five years on this issue, you would have to seriously question its competence as a major banking institution.

Today, Stuff posted a story “ANZ makes almost $2b from New Zealand banking” That, apparently, represents 40% of the total banking profit in New Zealand in that twelve month period. 40%! From a single bank! Are the others doing something wrong…or perhaps are they doing things right…? $1.99 billion dollars. Almost $5.5 million dollars EVERY day – by afternoon smoko on any given day, ANZ could clear RAL’s loss for 2018 – and not even blink. For that money, it could probably operate the Defence Force…

The culture of Gordon Gecko springs to mind…
gekko greed.JPG

I think banks have, like a lot of companies, we did lose our way.

“We became unbalanced in terms of the pursuit of financial metrics and success which again are very seductive.

“It is like anything — people in any industry or any team want to win and if the score is about profit or return it becomes really easy to focus on that at all costs.

Shayne Elliot, CEO ANZ, 2018

My situation aside, it’s clearly time for change…let’s kick it off with our own Banking Royal Commission and go from there….

Please sign and share our petition of change in the New Zealand banking industry

 

Jolly Green

via WordPress Daily Prompt Jolly

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.

Jolly, especially at this time of year invaribaly invokes themes of red, usually a large gentleman with a flowing beard, red suit and a predilection for exotic pets…

A long time ago, in a country far far away, jolly was green, the Jolly Green Giant that came from afar to rescue downed airman, often deep into bad guy territory…

DSCF2751DSCF2755DSCF2764

Evolving from the Jolly Grren Giant HH-3 to the Super Jolly Green Giant HH-53, and then into the SPECOPS MH-53 PAVE LOW

DSCF3056DSCF3058DSCF3063DSCF3070

Heavily armed, but lightly armoured, relying heavily other aircraft to suppress enemy fire, Jolly Greens would push into unfriendly skies to locate and recover downed airman, many who were seriously wounded.

These operations would often involves dozens of aircraft….rescue helicopters, fighters and attack aircraft, tanker, command and control aircraft…and it was not unusual for one rescue to turn into another…

Leave no one behind…